Commentary on sports, current events, and politics

Trafalgar, 212 Years Ago Today, Nelson’s Genius and His Tragedy.

In October 1805, the British Fleet commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson, finally found the French and Spanish fleets (Herenafter “French”) off the Spanish Coast near the Cape of Trafalgar south of the port of Cadiz. Nelson had been searching for this fleet all summer and that involved sailing into the Caribbean and back across the Atlantic.

The French were sailing south for Gibralter and the British approached from the west. Naval war was typically fought with both fleets parallel to each other as they pounded each other with heavy cannon.  Because of the alignment of the two fleets, and the fact the French outnumbered the British, Nelson introduced a new tactic. He divided his line into three parts and had each sail into the French line at different places, cutting the line into three segments.

The danger of this approach was the British would be exposed to the broadsides of the French ships on the approach and be subjected to potentially damaging fire.  Nelson, however, analyzed the situation and dismissed the danger. He did so for two reasons. First, the French were taking waves on the beam, or side of their ships, hence, rolling from side to side. It’s very hard to aim cannon is such a situation. Second, Nelson knew that the French cannons were fired with a slow match. This is a length of twine impregnated with pitch that burned slowly but allowed for the firing of a cannon when touched to the firing hole in the cannon. The firing did not take place instantly. Nelson knew that on a rolling deck with a slow match, the French gunners would be highly inaccurate with shots falling into the sea or flying high. He was right. British cannon was fired with flintlocks that cause immediate combustion and were easier to aim.

The British closed with the French in three points on the line. Nelson issued his most famous order as the lines closed, “England Expects Every Man Will Do His Duty.” They did. Passing through the French line, the British then had the advantage as their ships fired close broadsides into the bows and sterns of the French ships at close range. The destruction was catastrophic for the French.

When the battle ended, the French had lost 28 ships and the British 1.

Tragically, Nelson was shot by a French marine positioned in the mast. His descending shot went through Nelson’s body and severed his spine.  He was carried below and died soon thereafter. His body was packed in a barrel of rum and taken to England. He was aware of his great victory before he died.

The battle ended French maritime hopes of invading England.

Happy Columbus Day

Around this date in 1492, ships commanded by Christopher Columbus and flying the Spanish Flag landed Columbus and sailors on Watlings Island in the New World. He thought he was in India. Regardless of what you think of this holiday, the European development of the new world was inevitable. So lamenting the European influx and impact is fatuous. It was going to happen and did. The Indians never sailed to Europe and the only seafaring Asians were the Chinese who conducted extensive exploration of the Middle East, Africa both east and west. had reportedly failed to sail to Europe because as they reported, “We knew about England and saw it as a source of wool and bad wine. We had enough of that.” The Chinese also landed in the North American west coast but did not establish permanent settlements.

The point is that the 15th Century was the age of discovery and having Europeans or Chinese discover America was inevitable. The result was the introduction of European technology to the New World. This technology included the introduction of the wheel, unknown to indigenous peoples at the time.  The highest expression of indigenous technology north of the Rio Grande was the Clovis point. People in Mexico and Peru were advanced in math, astronomy, and agriculture.

The world of exploration explodes in the next century carrying  American crops to Europe and Asia. The potato came from Peru!  Let’s not get carried away by anti-Columbus hysteria, but the left needs a new hysteria on a regular basis. As to the notion that Europeans gave indigenous people diseases for which they weren’t resistant, it may have been the animals that came with Europeans who transmitted the diseases. This is often cited as a single sided issue and it is forgotten or overlooked that the indigenous people gave Europeans syphilis and tobacco. Some would say they won that long-term battle.

The NFL’s Glass House

This article is by Victor Davis Hanson and is very clear in describing the NFL’s current problems. I have added notes where appropriate.


The Glass House of the NFL

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

The Glass House of the NFL

The National Football League is a glass house that was cracking well before Donald Trump’s criticism of players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.

The NFL earned an estimated $14 billion last year. But 500-channel television, internet live streaming, video games and all sorts of other televised sports have combined to threaten the league’s monopoly on weekend entertainment — even before recent controversies.

League broadcast revenues are threatened by the rush to cut the cable. These revenues ae based on cable systems charging each subscriber a fee for sports programming even though only a portion of the subscribers actually watches the programs. The cut the cable movement, which I have done, will reduce the revenue pot used to pay the enormous rights fees paid to eh NFL and other sports leagues.

It has become a fad for many players not to stand for the anthem. But it is also becoming a trend for irate fans not to watch the NFL at all.

Multimillionaire young players, mostly in their 20s, often cannot quite explain why they have become so furious at emblems of the country in which they are doing so well.

Their gripes at best seem episodic and are often without supporting data. Are they mad at supposedly inordinate police brutality toward black citizens, or racial disparity caused by bias, or the perceived vulgarity of President Donald Trump?

The result, fairly or not, is that a lot of viewers do not understand why so many young, rich players show such disrespect for their country — and, by extension, insult their far poorer fans, whose loyal support has helped pay their salaries.

ESPN talking heads and network TV analysts do not help. They often pose as social justice warriors, but they are ill-equipped to offer sermons to fans on their ethical shortcomings that have nothing to do with football.

In truth, the NFL’s hard-core fan base is not comprised of bicoastal hipsters. Rather, the league’s fan base is formed mostly by red-state Americans — and many of them are becoming increasingly turned off by the culture of professional football.

Professional athletes are frequently viewed as role models. Yet since 2000, more than 850 NFL players have been arrested, some of them convicted of heinous crimes and abuse against women.

The old idea of quiet sportsmanship — downplaying one’s own achievements while crediting the accomplishments of others — is being overshadowed by individual showboating.

Players are now bigger, faster and harder-hitting than in the past. Research has revealed a possible epidemic of traumatic brain injuries and other crippling injuries among NFL players. Such harm threatens to reduce the pool of future NFL players.

There is a growing public perception that the NFL is less a reflection of the kind of athleticism seen in basketball or baseball, and more a reflection of the violence of Mixed Martial Arts — or of gladiators in the ancient Roman Colosseum.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has received more than $212 million in compensation since 2006, has been a big moneymaker for the owners. Yet otherwise, he has been a public relations disaster, due largely to his incompetent efforts to sound politically correct. Goodell often insists that trivial rules be observed to the letter. For instance, the league denied a request by Dallas Cowboys players to wear small decals honoring Dallas police officers killed in a 2016 shooting.

At other times, Goodell deliberately ignores widespread violations of important NFL regulations — like the requirement that all players show respect for the American flag by solemnly standing during the national anthem.

The average value of an NFL franchise is estimated at $2.5 billion. The average player salary is nearly $2 million a year. Some of the league’s superstars are making more than $20 million a year. Given such wealth, local governments are understandingly becoming miffed that they have to pony up public money to support new NFL stadiums. Over the last two decades, the American public has shelled out more than $7 billion to build or renovate NFL stadiums. Billionaire owners are able to blackmail the public to pay to keep a franchise or else lose it to a city that offers bigger stadium subsidies.

Meanwhile, the NFL has successfully lobbied for exemption from federal antitrust regulations. NFL owners are crony capitalists who want the state both to subsidize them and leave them alone.

The antitrust exemption is overstated. There is a general exemption for all sports leagues in the Sports Broadcasting Act that allows teams to pool resources to enter into league-wide broadcast agreements. Ther is also a general exemption for labor that all employers use. The NFL does not have an antitrust exemption like the baseball exemption. 

Racial politics in the NFL have become increasingly problematic. The mega-wealthy franchise owners are almost all white businesspeople. Their multimillionaire players are about 70 percent African-American. So there is little diversity among the players, but even less among the owners.

Politically correct orthodoxy dictates that even quasi-public entities like the NFL should “look like America.” But instead, the NFL apparently sees itself as an old-fashioned meritocracy where athletic skills and corporate success alone determine who plays and who owns.

The progressive notions of “proportional representation” and “disparate impact” that sometimes govern universities and government mysteriously do not apply to the NFL, where few Latinos or Asians are included.

But most importantly, the league has entirely forgotten the fundamental rule of business: Never ignore, insult or talk down to the loyal consumers who provide the leagues’ support and income.

The NFL will not disappear, but its national significance is rapidly diminishing.


Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book is The Savior Generals from BloomsburyBooks. You can reach him by e-mailing


That Horrible Weekend in Fenway Park in 1967, for the Twins, Anyway,



Saturday, September 30, 1967 saw the first place Minnesota Twins playing the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. A Minnesota win would eliminate the Red Sox, who trailed by one game. However, the Detroit Tigers would remain alive if they won at least one game of their doubleheader against the California Angels. A Red Sox win would bring them level with Minnesota, and give the Tigers a half game lead if they swept the Angels.

In Boston, the Twins took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. However, they had lost starting pitcher Jim Kaat, an all-star and veteran of three World Series duels against Sandy Koufax (his record in those games was 1-2), in the third inning due to a strained elbow. Kaat had shouldered a huge workload in September and his arm simply gave out. Manager Cal Ermer replaced Kaat with another fine veteran pitcher, Jim Perry.

Boston reached Perry for two runs in the fifth. Reggie Smith led off with a double. Pinch hitter Dalton Jones, who was having a fine year against right-handed pitchers (Perry was right-handed; Kaat left-handed) singled Smith to third. Kaat fanned Jose Santiago, Boston’s pitcher, and Mike Andrews. However, journeyman third baseman Jerry Adair singled home Smith and Carl Yastrzemski singled home Jones.

The Twins evened things up in the top of the sixth. Bob Allison walked with one out, and with two out Ted Uhlaender singled him to second. Rich Reese, batting for catcher Jerry Zimmerman, singled Allison home.

Frank Kostro then batted for Perry and drew a walk. However Santiago retired Zoilo Versalles.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ron Kline replaced Perry. The 35 year-old Kline was a so-so starting pitcher for years before becoming an ace reliever for the Washington Senators in the mid-1960s. The Twins acquired him from Washington before the 1967 season in exchange for Camilo Pascual (a great favorite of mine) and Bernie Allen.

In 1967, Kline had not lived up to expectations. His ERA was more than a run higher than his typical mark for the Senators. Ordinarily, the Twins might have turned to Perry and then to Al Worthington, their bullpen ace. But Perry had been forced into service early and pinch hit for rashly, perhaps. Thus, the game was in Kline’s hands.

George Scott greeted Kline with a “tater,” the term for home run that Scott popularized. Kline got out of the sixth with no further damage, but Boston now led 3-2.

Kline retired the first batter he faced in the seventh, pitcher Santiago. The second batter, Andrews, reached on an infield single.

That brought Adair to the plate. He hit a ground ball right back to Kline. It had double-play written all over it. Kline tried to lead Versailles by throwing over the second-base bag, as I believe is the proper approach, rather than directly to the infielder. Unfortunately for Minnesota, Versalles didn’t make the play. He was charged with an error, and the Twins had runners on first and second with Yastrzemski at the plate.

Ermer brought in lefty Jim Merritt to face Yastrzemski. It didn’t work. Yaz homered to give the Sox a 6-2 lead.

Down to their last out in the ninth, the Twins rallied for two runs on a homer by Harmon Killebrew off of Gary Bell. But Tony Oliva lined out to end the game. Boston and Minnesota were now tied.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had defeated the Angels in the opener of their double header by a score of 5-0. Mickey Lolich pitched a shutout. If Detroit won the nightcap they would take a half game lead.

The Tigers looked like accomplishing this. They jumped on Angels starter Jack Hamilton for three runs in the first inning and led 6-2 heading into the eighth.

If I recall correctly, Tiger fans were nervous about the team’s bullpen all season. Detroit had no dominant reliever. However, as the year progressed they developed a solid bullpen-by-committee. Fred Gladding saved 12 games, Mike Marshall saved 10, and Fred Lasher saved 9. Gladding and Marshall both had fine ERAs (Lasher, not much). John Hiller, whose ERA was also impressive, gave them a good left-handed arm. Former starters Hank Aguirre (a lefty) and Dave Wickersham (a right-hander) also chipped in effectively.

In this game, Lasher had replaced starter Earl Wilson in the sixth inning after Wilson walked the lead-off batter. Lasher set the Angels down one-two-three in the sixth and got through the seventh yielding only a walk.

In the top of the eighth, however, the first four Angel batters — Jim Fregosi, ex-Twin Jimmie Hall (on a walk), ex-Twin Don Mincher, and Rick Reichardt — all reached base against Lasher, with Fregosi and Hall scoring. It seems odd that Tigers manager Mayo Smith left Lasher, who had already pitched two innings, in the game long enough to suffer than much damage. A modern manager might leave Lasher in to face Fregosi but would almost certainly then call on Aguirre or Hiller to face lefties Hall and Mincher.

Finally, with left-handed Roger Repoz due up, Smith pulled Lasher and brought in Aguirre. The Angels countered with ex-Tiger Bubba Morton. Aguirre got him on a grounder back to the mound. However, Mincher scored on the play to make the score 6-5.

Aguirre walked Bob Rodgers. Smith called on Gladding to face Bobby Knoop, a right-handed batter. Knoop reached on an infield single to load the bases.

That was all for Gladding. On came John Hiller to face Tom Satriano, a left-handed batter. Satriano singled to tie the game. The bases remained loaded.

Hiller struck out pinch hitter Bob “Hawk” Taylor. Now he had to get Fregosi to keep the score tied.

But Fregosi, an all-star, came through with a hit that scored two runs. Hiller retired Hall, but the damage was done, and then some. The Angels had scored six runs and led 8-6.

During the course of the double-header, the Angels had run through pretty much their entire bullpen. To close out this game, manager Bill Rigney called on Jim Weaver, who had pitched three innings of scoreless ball in the opener.

Weaver set the Tigers down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings.

The Tigers thus were half a game behind the Twins and the Red Sox heading into the final day of the season. They still controlled their own destiny, though. If they won the Sunday double-header against the Angels, the Tigers would be tied for first with the winner of the Minnesota-Boston game, and a playoff would be required to determine the American League champion.

%d bloggers like this: